When couples come in for counseling they typically believe that there are numerous problems in the relationship. These problems may feel insurmountable. Each may complain about the other's behaviors or about his or her needs not being met. Each feels wounded and helpless to change the other or him/herself.
In counseling they often find that they are actually struggling with one or two issues that keep coming up in ways they have not been able to recognize. These issues are often hidden in various behaviors and emotional responses. Instead of many problems there is usually one loop that keeps playing out. One individual says or does something that triggers the other. That triggered individual then does or says something that triggers his or her partner and the loop goes on. Both feel helpless as they struggle to get out of the loop.
What the couple learns in counseling is how their problems are not based in their relationship but in old family and relationship habits, or in the ways that each has learned to attach to significant others. In other words, the relationship problems are old issues that each brings to the relationship and which trigger the partner's issues. When both individuals get triggered rational thought goes out the window as each person struggles to get needs met, feel heard or loved, or simply feels hurt, angry, betrayed, etc.
In counseling we can identify the root issues and learn to recognize them and their role in the loop. Partners begin to understand themselves and each other. The couple can work as a team to change unhealthy patterns and begin healthy ways of interacting. Each learns to own harmful patterns of interacting and help each other to move out of the loop. Each grows as an individual and the relationship becomes one of working together versus working against one another.